Tsawout First Nation begins to replace longhouse destroyed in blaze

Tsawout First Nation begins to replace longhouse destroyed in blaze

WATCH: Next month marks eight years since Tsawout First Nation lost their longhouse in blaze. Plans now underway to build a new one. Isabelle Raghem reports. 

Plans are now underway to build an $800,000 longhouse at Tsawout First Nation in Central Saanich.

July will mark exactly eight years since the community lost their sacred community centre to a massive blaze.

“When we lost our longhouse, we lost the heartbeat of our community,” John Etzel, a Tsawout First Nation councillor, said.

The band has remained without a longhouse since the fire since 2009 as they raised funds to rebuild a new one.

Members have since had to go elsewhere for sacred gatherings.

“A lot of youth since the longhouse burned down, strayed in the wrong direction,” Coun. Etzel said.

“That’s where everything is thought from the elders to the youth, so they would choose a better road,” Tsawout First Nation Chief Harvey Underwood said.

“It’s part of healing for the families, one of our elders would say it was her hospital and she would go and sing,” Coun. Mavis Underwood said.

While the cause of the fire was deemed suspicious, no arrests were ever made. but residents say they are more than ready to start a new chapter.

“I think the biggest thing is get it build, carry on and work on another project,” Coun. Stanley Sam said. 

Construction will rely heavily on volunteers workers and donations made over the years.

They hope to have their first gathering in the new longhouse by winter 2017. 

To volunteer or to donate, contact Tsawout First Nation

Isabelle RaghemIsabelle Raghem

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